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Candidates try to make their marks

Budget crisis dominates as school board hopefuls participate in PTA forum.

March 04, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,

Two Glendale Unified School Board candidates Thursday criticized Measure S — a $270-million bond on the April 5 ballot — breaking rank with district officials who say it is a critical component of the long-range success of local schools.

The district’s focus should be on classroom instruction and not necessarily on new buildings, said Ingrid Gunnell, a Los Angeles Unified school teacher and the parent of an Edison Elementary School student.

“If my child attends a school that has a beautiful new turf playground, but there is nobody to teach him, that is not going to be acceptable to me,” Gunnell said. “If the current school board had guaranteed $19 million to keep class sizes low, [the Glendale Teachers Assn.] would have supported Measure S.”


She was referring to the union’s decision to oppose the bond after failing to get a commitment from district administrators to dedicate money that would be freed up by the bond to backfilling employee concessions made last year.

Jennifer Freemon, a former Glendale Unified teacher and mother of three, said she believes strongly in funding public education, so much so that she has lobbied and demonstrated in Sacramento. But Measure S is not the answer, she said.

“We need to have ourselves positioned to explore alternative sources of funding if the June state tax extension does not pass,” Freemon said. “To push Measure S now in April ties our hands come June. I advocate a wait-and-see approach now, and be ready to put it on the ballot as soon as possible.”

The comments came during a candidate forum hosted by the Glendale Council PTA and the League of Women’s Voters Glendale/Burbank that drew about 40 people. In addition to Gunnell and Freemon, the challengers include Todd Hunt, Vahik Satoorian, Ami Fox and Daniel Cabrera. The incumbents are Mary Boger and Nayiri Nahabedian.

During more than 90 minutes of questions and answers, the eight candidates shared their positions on teacher evaluations, magnet schools and district-community communication.

Several candidates criticized what they described as contentious relationships between the current school board, the Glendale City Council and the teachers’ union.

“Glendale can do so much better than what it is doing right now,” Fox said. “I know that these are tough times, but there are always tough times. That is not an excuse to create so much tension that we see.”

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